Same-sex Marriage Bill Heads to Illinois State Senate Floor

Illinois lawmakers decided on Thursday to send legislation legalizing gay marriage in President Barack Obama’s home state to the floor of the state Senate.

A panel of Illinois lawmakers voted to send legislation considering legalization of same-sex marriage to the floor of the state Senate, setting up a possible vote on the issue next week. Photo: Martin Coles/Flickr

The Senate Executive Committee voted 8-5 vote, with the panel’s Democratic majority supporting the measure and its Republican minority opposing it.

Though the Senate, which includes a majority if Democrats, adjourned late on Thursday, lawmakers reported that the bill likely would be called on Tuesday when the Senate is scheduled to return for a special session.

The Democratic-led state House of Representatives is also predicted to take up the legislation next week.

Sen. Heather Steans, who sponsors the bill, said it was a matter of “when, not if” the measure will pass.

The senator went on, adding that people across the state as well as lawmakers are changing their minds every day and supporting gay marriage.

“This is never going to be an easy one, but it’s only going to get easier,” Steans said.

President John Cullerton it might take up to several weeks Senate to vote. His spokeswoman conceded that “the bill needs work,” and even Steans suggested working with recalcitrant Republicans to get a bipartisan agreement.

“What’s important when we reconvene is that we work to protect and strengthen all Illinois families, and that’s what this legislation does,” Cullerton said in a statement.

If the bill is approved by the Legislature and signed by Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois would become the 10th state along with the District of Columbia to approve same-sex marriage and the first Midwest state to do so through legislation.

Iowa’s Supreme Court legalized gay nuptials four years ago, reminds Reuters.

Advocates for the same sex marriages are pushing for full gay rights just 18 months after the state recognized civil unions, writes Ward Room. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is among the supporters.

“Gay and lesbian couples deserve full recognition of their relationships,” she said in a statement shortly after the committee’s vote. “Couples who are in loving, committed relationships should be able to marry and be treated equally in the eye of the law.”

Many faith organizations don’t approve same-sex marriages on religious freedom grounds, citing that it would compel them to treat gay unions as the equivalent of traditional marriage.

“The bill, as it’s drafted now, will make it almost impossible for a religious organization to prohibit the use of its facilities for same-sex marriages, even if the tenets of that particular faith are diametrically opposed to that, and I think it’s a fatal flaw in the bill,” said Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon).

However, advocates said the legislation would not affect any religious beliefs as religious organizations would not have to recognize or consecrate gay marriage.

“It’s really important to understand it’s not within its own church facility itself that’s primarily used for religious purpose. If you have an ancillary facility that does do renting out for public accommodation and is getting payment in exchange for that, that you cannot deny equal access to to all individuals,” Steans said after the vote.

Spectators in the crowded committee room welcome the news after the measure passed, with many embracing and trading high-fives.

“This is a great feeling; we feel it’s about time,” said Theresa Volpe, 47, of Chicago, who testified before the committee along with her partner of 21 years, Mercedes Santos. They have two children, Ava, 8, and Jaidon, 4.

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